Turning engineers into successful entrepreneurs and industry leaders with Palantir’s William Zhang

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There aren’t many builders in New South Wales who don’t know William Zhang, Founding Director of Palantir Consulting, by name.

The structural engineer, mentor, entrepreneur and renowned industry leader, is at the forefront of transformation in the construction sector, developing the skills and leadership potential of engineers and consultants across Australia.

In May 2023, Zhang launched the Palantir Entrepreneur Incubation (PEI) program, ushering in a new era for his company, Palantir. The program specifically focuses on building the capacity of engineers and consultants to turn their individual technical expertise into thriving enterprises.

Speaking to Forbes Australia, Zhang said he had discovered throughout his career as a structural engineer that there was a massive opportunity to utilise his own personal and leadership skills to support engineers to become more successful in the full breadth of their careers.

“What I’ve found in the engineering demographic is that often they are very good at problem-solving, very good in their analytical skills, and sitting behind their desks doing calculations and building models,” Zhangexplains.

“But often, they’re so exhausted by their work that they rarely spend their time learning how to become, for example, a great leader or entrepreneur, which is a very different skill set.”

Zhang says that far too often for engineers, systematic learning in this leadership development area has never been available. And while not everyone wants to become an entrepreneur, Zhang is a firm believer that the development of entrepreneurial-related skills will help engineering and consulting professionals to succeed in their careers and build a broader legacy.

“I partner with people who are willing to make a change and become very open-minded about learning new skills other than their existing engineering skills,” Zhang said.

“Let’s learn leadership skills, let’s learn business skills, and let’s learn to brand ourselves as a person.”

With more than 22,000 followers on LinkedIn, Zhang has certainly put in the work to position himself as a thought leader in the engineering and construction sector — pushing the boundaries of what’s possible for engineers and consultants when it comes to entrepreneurship, influence, and business.

“This influence didn’t just come to me. Over time, I made a lot of effort to connect with people individually, again and again. It was only with persistence that I’ve been able to have that impact,” Zhang said.

“In my field, I haven’t found a lot of people – probably only a handful, maybe less – that are doing what I have done.

“That’s why they don’t have the results that I have. I’m not talking about business or money, I’m talking about the skills. I’m now equipped to make a larger impact.”

It’s this gap in the engineering and construction sector that Zhang is filling with the Palantir Entrepreneur Incubation (PEI) program. Zhang’s primary role is to mentor industry professionals to achieve the best version of themselves, turning their existing skills into successful enterprises.

One of the key benefits of the program is the opportunity to learn from Zhang and other industry leaders and get access to crucial resources, support and funding to help scale a business.

Zhang is also very focused on supporting and improving the physical and mental health of those in the PEI program, as well as their self-esteem and personal development. For him, these issues are the key to creating successful entrepreneurs.

After the success of RADIUS2023, which drew 230 attendees, Zhang is gearing up to host another specialised half-day event—RADIUS2024. This event is meticulously crafted to empower engineers by facilitating the exchange of knowledge and networking opportunities. It serves as a platform for engineering professionals to acquire actionable strategies for leadership development, while also focusing on enhancing their physical and mental well-being.

“[The Palantir Entrepreneur Incubation program] is an environment where people can really grow, and be courageous enough to grow to make more impact,” Zhang explains. “Knowing that if they fail, it’s safe for themselves and their family, and there’s no judgement in all of our conversations when we make mistakes.”

“The goal is to duplicate our culture so we can grow as a community and become true, innovative engineers where we can accelerate the advancement of the industry.”